PolyMet EIS has been released

Iron Range news

UPDATE: You can find the EIS document here at the DNR website.

I’ll be on Minnesota Public Radio’s Daily Circuit today with Tom Weber talking about the release of the Environmental Impact Statement for the PolyMet mining project in northern Minnesota. My segment is slated for the 11 a.m. hour. It looks like they’re dedicating quite a bit of time to the issue with several guests from various corners of the debate.

I wrote earlier this week about what I’m looking for in the actual PolyMet EIS document. Truth be told it will be very hard to absorb this 1,800-page document quickly. I expect it will take me some time and some consultation to fully understand it. So, as I said before, the approach of curiosity and caution is probably best.

Public comments on the PolyMet EIS are slated to begin after the holidays during the first week of January. I’m sure those hearings will be very emotional, as the issue remains one of the biggest controversies in our region.

UPDATE: The EIS is out now, a massive document that runs through the various issues agencies must consider before allowing permits to be issued.

In my early scan, this excerpt on P. 138 under the financial assurances section caught my eye:

Table 3.2-15 Preliminary Cost Estimate for Closure

  • Year 1 (Estimated Range) $50m – $90m

  • Year 11 (Estimated Range) $160m – $200m

  • Year 20 (Estimated Range) $120m – $170m

  • Annual Postclosure Monitoring and Maintenance (Estimated Range) $3.5m – $6m

PolyMet is operating on a 20 year mining plan, so this gives you an idea of the costs involved in mitigating the environmental risks inherent in this kind of mining. Investors would have to put in enough money to make assurances these costs are covered, or else seek legal or political action to avoid having to spend that money.


  1. There are great studies that all of us should include in our thoughts about this. One study in particular:

    Bell, Shannon Elizabeth and Richard York. 2010. “Community Economic Identity: The Coal Industry and Ideology Construction in West Virginia.” Rural Sociology 75(1): 111-143.

    There are many more. All are pertinent. People can ask a local librarian for help accessing these articles. Students and instructors should have no problems at their school libraries. I know it sounds wonky. But this is serious and people should be able to come to their own conclusions. We have libraries. We have librarians. I might be wrong that we can access this stuff from the public library, but I swear I remember accessing most of these journals from the public library. Maybe a great librarian like Jennifer Rian is paying attention and she will teach us.

  2. Annual production estimates are 78,000 tons of copper annually. At about $7000/ton equals roughly $500M a year. On average the annual mitigation costs listed above are about a quarter of this value. How could still be profitable given the huge production and upfront costs? The only reasonable explanation rests on huge quantities of other metals as well, including some precious ones.

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